B26 Veteran Surviving 65 Bombing Missions In WWII: If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live. Today, we are interviewing Veteran Bill Deam on his experience surviving 65 bombing missions in WWII. 

Air Date: 02/27/2018

Guest: Veteran Bill Deam

On-air Personalities: Rick Green 


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture.  This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture. All from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective.

My name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state representative.

You can find out more about us at our website – WallBuildersLive.com. Also our other website – WallBuilders.com.

Today’s a little bit different program. We get the opportunity to interview some of our great veterans and tell their stories. So, we get that Biblical, historical, and Constitutional, perspective through their eyes and their experiences in serving for our nation.

Our special guest today is Bill Deam- First Lieutenant in World War II. Lieutenant Deam, thank you so much for joining us.

Bill Deam:

You’re welcome.

Rick:

So, this is, let’s see– this is how many years since you got out of the Army? Well, I guess Air Force is where you ended up.

Bill Deam:

Army Air Corps and I got out in August 1945.

Rick:

Let’s see, how far removed are we now? That makes it 55 and–

Bill Deam:

75-80 years.

Rick:

So, that’s been a while.

Bill Deam:

It has been a long while.

Rick:

Alright, well let’s go all the way back to the beginning. When you first went in you were 20, your dad was actually the chair of the draft board–

Bill Deam:

Correct.

Rick:

–and you were still drafted, right?

Bill Deam:

Yep, I was.

Rick:

So, you– and quite a few from your community it sounds like from what I’ve read.

82 Draftees

Bill Deam:

Well, that particular day, August 15, ‘42, there were 82 of us.

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

82 draftees out of our whole county– not just city, but the whole county.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

So, of course, the county wasn’t near as large in population as it is today. That was one of the bigger groups, but every month there was a troop train leaving Sydney. And once in a great while, two troop trains. I tell you, I think there were around 2500 left Shelby County to the draft board.

Rick:

And that’s– now what part of Ohio is that where you are?

Bill Deam:

About 40 miles due north of Dayton on I75.

Rick:

Okay. Okay. Alright, so you get drafted, you go in initially and you had a combat engineer about three months and said, “Hey, you know what?” They drafted you over to the Air Corps and you liked that idea.

Bill Deam:

I was looking forward to it. I just had to be in the right place at the right time. The Air Force opening – of course, it was part of the army then. It wasn’t the U.S. Air Force, it was the Army Air Corps.

Rick:

And did you think– going in, did you know you wanted to be a pilot or did that just develop?

Bill Deam:

No, no, no idea.

Rick:

Okay. Alright.

Never Been in a Place Before

Bill Deam:

Never been in a airplane before.

Rick:

You’re kidding me.

Bill Deam:

No.

Rick:

Never been in an airplane and you got drafted to be a pilot?! Okay, so tell me, so you’re training to be a pilot then was another, roughly, year – right?

Bill Deam:

Yeah, well it was just like the Army Air Corps was badly in need of people. Even when they gave me a transfer from the combat engineers to the Army Air Corps, I still didn’t know where I was going to end up.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Whether it was going to be in a ground forces, or gunner, or navigator. I went to Nashville, Tennessee to the Army Air Corps classification center is where they gave you tests and physicals and all that kind of stuff. And said that you qualified for pilot training.

Rick:

Then they sent you to Alabama.

Bill Deam:

Well, Maxwell field Montgomery, Alabama, yeah, for two– started out two months of pre-flight before you ever saw an airplane. They had classes and meteorology and IFF identification, friend or foe, of all countries different airplanes. They didn’t want you to shoot down one of your own airplanes. So–

Rick:

Right.

Two Months of Pre-Flight

Bill Deam:

So, it was after two months of pre-flight before you really got to primary training and started to fly.

Rick:

And so after you did, I guess it was about six months total, you graduated as a Second Lieutenant and they actually put you with the team that you ended up staying with throughout the war – is that right?

Bill Deam:

Well, most of it.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Most– a couple of guys got their missions in before I did. So, a couple of them got done quicker.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

But, yeah, after six months I went to Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana – two months there. That’s where our original crew was put together.

Rick:

And I was told that’s a six man team for the type of plane you were going to fly. Is that right?

Bill Deam:

Well, yeah when I got to Barksdale it’d be a B-26 which is what we were going to end up in.

Deploying to England

Rick:

Okay. So, then they sent you to– I guess deployed you to England from there.

Bill Deam:

Correct.

Rick:

Okay.

Bill Deam:

After we finished our two months at Barksdale Field they sent us, and I can’t remember the name of the Air Base in Georgia, but we went– they sent us there to pick up a new B-26. And then sent us t0 Homestead Florida Air Base where we jumped off with a– we want the southern route. Down to South America, out to the Ascension Islands, and then on over to Africa, and up through there and then we finally ended up in England. About ten days later. It took about ten days to get from Homestead Air Base in Florida to * in England.

Rick:

And that’s you guys, your team, flying the bomber that you’re going to end up with over there. You actually flew yourself over to England.

Bill Deam:

The one we ferried over there wasn’t the one we ended up in.

Rick:

Oh, okay. Okay, gotcha.

Bill Deam:

You turned them in and they took them to whatever airbase.

Rick:

You were just delivering, huh?

Bill Deam:

Yeah. We were at that point.

Rick:

Okay, so then once you got there, now you were in the 394th Bomb Group of the Ninth Air Force, right?

Bill Deam:

That’s correct 587th Squadron.

Rick:

587th Squadron. Okay.

Bill Deam:

Four squadrons in a group.

Air Support to General Patton

Rick:

And you guys ended up– you were right there with General Patton, I understand, for a big chunk of his advance. Actually most of–

Bill Deam:

After D-Day then we gave a lot of air support to General Patton.

Rick:

And how did your squad get to be known as the “Bridge Busters”?

Bill Deam:

Well, the group became the “Bridge Busters”. The basic reason was the 272 missions the group flew. Now I didn’t fly that many – 65 missions was your tour of duty. But the 272 missions the group flew, 82 of them were bridges. And 70 of the 80 bridges, basically, were railroad bridges. So, we specialized in bridges, I guess. Just luck of the draw.

Rick:

Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Bill Deam:

Some of them were highway bridges and 70 of them were railway bridges.

Rick:

And you ended up– so you had 65 missions?

Bill Deam:

Correct.

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

And in the B-26 there were 65. Now, the B-17s and the B-24s, the heavy bombers, the long range bombers, of course they had 8 hour missions – we had 4 hour missions. So, they were in the air a lot longer than we were getting shot up. Of course they were going into Germany early before they had the P-51 on board.

Into Germany Without Fighter Escort

Bill Deam:

So, they were going into Germany without any fighter escort.

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

We always had fighter escort. But they had, due to do the distance they flew, they didn’t have any fighter planes that could go that distance. So, they were really– they got shot up terribly. We were lucky that we very seldom ever saw a German fighter plane. We saw a lot of anti-aircraft gunfire, but very seldom did we ever see a fighters.

But the guys in the B-17s and the B-24s, they’d send out four or five hundred bombers on a mission, one or two hundred of them never came back. They just got blasted.

Rick:

Yeah, yeah.

Bill Deam:

Once they– Of course the German air force was getting smaller and smaller because all of their manufacturing plants, assembly plants, were being destroyed, so they couldn’t replace them. As well as they– of course they weren’t only shooting down a lot of ours, we were shooting down theirs too. And of course they finally ran out of airplanes and pilots. But we were fortunate that our losses were nothing like the B-17s and the B-24s. So, consequently it was justified that we flew 65 and they only flew 25 and then later in the war they moved it up to 35 missions.

Rick:

Yeah.

One of Those Days

Bill Deam:

But their losses were tremendous compared to ours.

Rick:

Tell me about the one that was– it was pretty close towards the end of your missions where you guys were coming back from a mission in Germany and hit some really bad weather and had to bail.

Bill Deam:

Yeah, that was Sarr*, Germany. And that “Sarr” is spelled “S, A, A, R,” I think. It was one of them days when everything that could go wrong did go wrong starting with a meteorologist report before the mission started at the briefing. He didn’t hit it too well that day. He thought we would have plenty of time to get back before the weather set in.

But then, while we were still over France waiting on fire escort– they were about 20 minutes late getting to where we were supposed to join up with them before we went into Germany. So, we kept circling and that kept using up fuel. But we did get to the bridge in * and took it out. But, boy, we ran into– I don’t think we got a third of the way back to our base in Camburry France that we hit this storm and everybody ended up being on their own. You couldn’t see 200 yards. And–

Rick:

How many planes would you have been flying with? How many bombers would you all typically be together with in a mission like that?

Bill Deam:

If it was a normal mission, it was 36 planes – two boxes. Well, they call it a box – 18 planes in each box. If it was a maximum effort, then there were three boxes which would add up to 54 planes.

Rick:

And that group of planes is all bombers? Or that’s bombers and fighters?

Just Bombers

Bill Deam:

No, that was just bombers.

Rick:

Oh, wow.

Bill Deam:

That was just bombers. So, at maximum, we could put up a little over 400 planes.

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

Maximum effort. But there weren’t too many of them. D-day was a maximum effort. A couple missions before they tried to take– before they got ready to take Paris were maximum efforts. And I think a couple of missions in the Battle of the Bulge were maximum efforts. When the weather cleared up.

Rick:

Stay with us, folks. We’ll be right back. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Bring A Speaker To Your Area

Tim:

Hey, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders.  And as you’ve had the opportunity to listen to WallBuilders Live, you’ve probably heard a wealth of information about our nation, about our spiritual heritage, about the religious liberties, and about all the things that make America exceptional.

And you might be thinking, “As incredible as this information is, I wish there was a way that I could get one of the WallBuilders guys to come to my area and share with my group.”

Whether it be a church, whether it be a Christian school, or public school, or some political event, or activity, if you’re interested in having a WallBuilders speaker come to your area, you can get on our website at www.WallBuilders.com and there’s a tab for scheduling. If you’ll click on that tab, you’ll notice there’s a list of information from speakers bio’s, to events that are already going on. And there’s a section where you can request an event, to bring this information about who we are, where we came from, our religious liberties, and freedoms. Go to the WallBuilders website and Bring a speaker to your area.

Rick:

Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live. Our special guest today is Bill Deam, First Lieutenant in World War II. So, take me back then– when you were coming back and you hit that bad weather and those 36 planes get, basically, scattered–

Bill Deam:

Yep.

Why Did the Weather Cause You to Bail?

Rick:

Everybody’s, like you said, everybody’s on their own. What with– so how did the weather, how did the cold and freezing rain, why did that cause you guys to have to bail?

Bill Deam:

Well, two reasons. One is we had run out of gas.

Rick:

Ah. And part of that was because at the beginning of the mission having to circle.

Bill Deam:

On our way back, we tried to get under the weather and we couldn’t. So, we decided to get above it and see if we could find an open space someplace and get in. Well, going back up to that altitude again and being– fighters being 20 minutes late, everything ended up that we just had to. We were about 10,000 feet, we were still getting iced up–

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

–and freezing rain and sleet and you name it. It was just a lousy situation. And a B-26 was not designed to crash land.

Rick:

So, when you had to make the decision, how did you guys– what was your final decision on, “That’s it – we’ve got to bail.”?

Bill Deam:

Well, *Burt Knapp and I– I was flying co-pilot that day and Burt Knapp, who’s deceased, and I got our heads together and said, “We just don’t have any choice. We can’t– we’re not about to ride this thing down.”

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Right. And not knowing where we’re at – whether we were over a lake, or a river, or a city. We knew just roughly where we were at – we were pretty sure. We knew we were not over the North Sea – we were way inland from there. So, we weren’t worried about that and we were pretty certain we were on U.S. allies side of the battle area.

We Came Down Okay

Bill Deam:

So, we were pretty certain we– and we did we, we came down okay. Everybody got out safe when we got down. We were a little concerned up there floating around in a parachute when nobody could see you and them other planes floating around up there.

Rick:

No kidding.

Bill Deam:

I expect– I don’t know, I think from 10,00 feet. I was probably no more than five feet– 500 feet before I was on the ground and I was over a wooded area. But I would suspect that– I would suspect the actual time from the time we bailed out before we hit the ground, was probably 12-15 minutes.

Rick:

Wow. So, when you guys jump, when you bail at that low, at 10,000, when do you actually pull your chute?

Bill Deam:

Well, the instructions that we had was basically nothing. They would– when you checked out your parachute, these guys that packed their chutes, their comment all the time was, “Look, if this thing doesn’t open, just bring it back and we’ll give you another one.”

Rick:

Yeah.

Before You Pull the Ripchord

Bill Deam:

Basically, they said, “If you ever have to jump, make sure you clear the airplane before you pull that ripcord then count to ten.” Well, I don’t think I got beyond two. So, I was a little anxious.

Rick:

I bet.

Bill Deam:

Anway, but we fooled around up there in that freezing rain and I got soaked in cold, and wet, and everything else.

Rick:

What is this story I hear about when you pulled your– when your shoot opened your boots fell off?

Bill Deam:

Right. Well, I tell you, when you’re moving roughly 200 per mile airspeed, when that 15 foot parachute opens, you stop right now.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Well–

Rick:

You stopped and your boots didn’t.

Bill Deam:

That’s correct. The boots zipped up the front and they didn’t fit all that tight.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Thank goodness — thank goodness my shoes stayed on or I would have had a couple bad feet.

Rick:

So, you had shoes inside your boots? You were wearing shoes and then had those slipped into your flying boots?

Bill Deam:

Correct, yeah. Yep.

Rick:

And the boots just flew off.

A Ruger For My Boots?

Bill Deam:

And these boots were very warm. They were fleece lined, and they were very warm, and kept your feet dry and warm both. In fact, later on I was out up near the front lines and some GI offered me a Lueger for my boots. And I said, “I’m more interested in warm, dry, feet than I am a Lueger. I’ve got a 45 and I don’t hardly know what to do with that.”

Rick:

Did you ever wish later that you had the Lueger as a souvenir.

Bill Deam:

No.

Rick:

No.

Bill Deam:

No.

Rick:

Okay, so when you guys landed though, you were– were you in French– were you in resistance territory? Were you able to get out?

Bill Deam:

No, we were in friendly territory.

Rick:

Oh, friendly territory. Okay.

Bill Deam:

Yeah. Yep, yeah. We were up not too far. We were in Northern France not too far from the Belgian border.

Rick:

Okay.

Ended Up in a Little Village

Bill Deam:

The name of the village that we finally ended up in – Saint Martin, I think. Saint Martin in northern France. I have no idea what county or I don’t know how they divide–

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

–France up. But it was a little village – Saint-Martin.

Rick:

So, you only had six missions left after that, right?

Bill Deam:

Right.

Rick:

And then– So, when you came home, what’d you do when you came home?

Bill Deam:

Well, we came home on troop ship from Liverpool, England to New York. We ended up– they picked us up in New York and bused us or trucked us down to Fort Dix, New Jersey where we had a great meal – biggest meal we had in a year. And we got– we had 30 day leave to go home, which we did – I did, we all did. Then we had to report to Santa Ana, California for 30 more days RR. And so I left there and they sent me to Dodge City, Kansas–

Rick:

Really.

Bill Deam:

–for B-26 instructor school. And I was only there about three weeks and the war in Europe ended and so did the B-26 instructor school. So, then they sent me to Chanute Field near Champagne, Illinois. And Dodge City, Kansas was the worst base in the U.S. I was ever stationed at. Chanute Field was a very nice base– I don’t know if it’s still a nasty base or not, no idea.

Rick:

Yeah.

More Than Enough Points

Bill Deam:

But– so I went there and stayed there until they started releasing– if you had enough points you could get out and I had more than enough points. I had– with 65 missions, and overseas duty, and combat duty–

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

–that all gave you a points. So, they said, “If you would like to have an honorable discharge and go home you’ve got enough points to do it. Or you can stay in and may end up in the South Pacific in combat again.” I said, “I’ll take number one.”

Rick:

I’ll take door number one. I’ve already been through door number two. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Bill Deam:

Yep, so– I thought my luck was good had lasted about long enough.

Rick:

Yeah. Well, that’s a– what a great experience in some ways to get all those places and go. But I know my generation often does not appreciate the sacrifices that were made in previous generations.

Bill Deam:

Yeah.

Rick:

And it’s just an honor to have you on and get to hear your story. I just want to personally say “thank you” for my family, and I know for the Bartons, and for all of us at WallBuilders, we just want to tell you we really appreciate the fact that we get to live in freedom today because of what you did back then.

All on the Same Page

Bill Deam:

I’ve always said that, in my opinion – and this is strictly my opinion, that World War II was the last war we’ve been in, starting with Korea and Vietnam, World War II was the last war in which the home front military, the news media, and the politicians, were all on the same page.

Rick:

That’s true.

Bill Deam:

And–

Rick:

Made a huge difference.

Bill Deam:

–everybody pitched in, there was nobody saying, “Well, I’m not going to go.” And a lot of them were not drafted – they volunteered.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

I think there were only two out of our class of 60 males that didn’t end up in the military. One was a farmer and one was 4F. But a number of farmers back in those days were in our class – most of them went and volunteered to go. They didn’t have to, but they did.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

So, it was just a total effort by everybody. Our parents and grandparents put out victory gardens to help raise food – you name it. And the rationing, everybody accepted rationing. Everything you wanted rationed – gasoline, automobiles, appliances, you name it – it was all rationed.

A Different Sense of Duty

Rick:

There was definitely a different sense of duty back then, huh?

Bill Deam:

No question about it.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Yeah, no question about it. Of course, my older son spent a year in Vietnam and he was he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. But he’s fine, he’s home, and it didn’t affect him like some of the guys in Vietnam.

Rick:

Yeah. Now, who is that we hear in the background?

Bill Deam:

My wife.

Rick:

What’s her name?

Bill Deam:

Doris.

Rick:

Doris?

Bill Deam:

Yep. We’re both 95. So, she’s just cooking – she cooks up a storm three times a day.

Rick:

How did you all meet?

Love Story

Bill Deam:

Well, we graduated from Sidney High School in 1940 together, but we never dated. We knew each other, we sat close together in homeroom and some classes, and she lost her husband, and I lost my wife – my first wife – after 54 years.

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

And she lost her husband and–

Rick:

Had they– had you all been in the same community?

Bill Deam:

Same county. She moved out– she lived up north of here about 15 miles.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

And she was also, during the war, she worked down in a town known as Pickway for the Robins and Myers Company assembling– helping assemble the Norden Bombsight.

Rick:

Wow.

Bill Deam:

Which all of U.S. bombers used. So if she assembled one of bomb sights we had in our plane, I don’t have any idea, but of course we were close to the Dayton WrightPatterson Air Force Base.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

And they would go up to Pickway, which is only about 25-30 miles away, and pick them up every day or two and send them over the world – wherever they needed them. But that was a U.S. bombsight that we bombed by day. The RAF bombed by night. So, Germany would not have been a very comfortable country to live in during WWII.

Rick:

No kidding. No kidding.

Bill Deam:

Now, where are you located?

Can I Come For Dinner?!

Rick:

I’m in Austin, Texas. I wish I wasn’t so far – I’d come over for dinner. I hear all that going on in the background it sounds like it’s probably going to be pretty good.

Bill Deam:

Yeah, yeah. I think we got a sausage for one thing tonight. So– Well, I’ve been to Austin once, but years ago.

Rick:

Yeah.

Bill Deam:

Two of our crew members were from Texas from– they were both– well, one was from Houston and one was– and I forget where the guy was from. I forget, but two of them were from Texas.

Rick:

Well, you tell Doris that I said thank you for letting us have you for a little while and–

Bill Deam:

I will and I appreciate your phone call. I enjoyed talking with you and thanks again. Glad to do it – appreciate the effort.

Rick:

Well, thank you, sir.

Bill Deam:

So, thank you much again and give my regards to all involved.

Rick:

Thank you Mr. Deam, appreciate it. God bless you.

B26 Veteran Surviving 65 Bombing Missions In WWII

Rick:

More of these stories available on the website. You can get that CD or the download and from all the branches, and actually multiple wars. Of course, these World War II stories are always incredible, but all throughout our history these guys actually bring it to life. I’d rather hear it from them than read it in a textbook as we said earlier. And it really is good to chronicle them because it makes you appreciate what we have.

Some of us, we get a little spoiled in this freedom that we get to enjoy and we need to remember the sacrifice of generations before that made it possible.

Thanks for listening today, folks. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.